The year gone by : A look at 2018

(Dr Pentapati Pullarao)

P.J. Proudhon ( 1809- 1865) was a French politician and Philosopher. Proudhon was famous for the remark “ The fertility of the unexpected “. He meant that the future is totally un-expected . In that way, 2018 has as usual been as unpredictable as the future is always . India is a young democratic nation and politics is very pervasive. Since India is a Welfare state and perhaps the only country in the world to have reservations and affirmative action for all Legislature seats, jobs and education, people want to control the government through political parties. Every caste, religion and tribe and community now participates in politics and wants to extract the maximum from the welfare State .

India also has a very bad system where elections are being held every month somewhere in India . Every state assembly election or even an Assembly by-election become very important . Frequent and constant elections distract the government and the people. There was a general election in 2014 .But since 2014, every state election has become very important ,though the Narendra Modi government has a 5-year tenure.
Now we are getting ready for 2019 elections. 2018 has been a very eventful year and there have been some important events.

Notebandi and GST cast long shadows on 2018 

There is no doubt that the 2 biggest mistakes made by Narendra Modi are NoteBandi and disastrous implementation of GST. Note Bandi was the work of Narendra Modi himself and he cannot blame anyone for it.Modi never knew that the Reserve bank of India does not print and keep huge amount of notes. The RBI prints money only to replace old notes and also sometimes to pump in some additional funds. Modi thought that the process of changing old notes for new notes is a simple thing. NoteBandi resulted in a collapse of the economy from November ,2016 and its impact was felt in all elections .

Similarly , GST was poorly implemented by the Finance Ministry .In the last days of 2018, Modi had to personally intervene and order reduction of all GST rates. Modi did not have the courage t override Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to reduce GST rates. It was only after the defeat in 3 states that Modi felt the situation was desperate and hence 2018 saw the impact of Notebandi and GST everywhere and on all political events.

TDP and BJP break-up

The sudden breakup of the TDP- BJP alliance in Andhra Pradesh in February, 2018 was like a slow-motion divorce where no one bothered to mediate and settle. Many a time, divorces occur for petty reasons and there is no person decent enough to try to settle the disputes. Actually, the issue of “ special category status” is not such a big thing that the Modi government should have refused Andhra Pradesh. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is a powerful & difficult Minister. He decided against obliging Telugu Desam and the TDP left in February, 2018. Modi now understands that Arun Jaitley has messed up the economy partially and has made him many enemies,. Modi had to step in and ordered Jaitley to reduce the GST rates, which Jaitley did not do earlier.

Karntaka election : Karnataka was ruled by a Congress government. Since the BJP won 17 out of 28 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 , BJP was sure that it would get a majority in the 2018 Assembly elections .But with great difficulty ,the BJP managed 108 MLAs and became the largest party in Karnataka. BJP could not forma government and the Congress is a coalition partner now in the Karnataka state government . Here the BJP was stuck with all the same leaders who were in positions for the last 40 years. This defeat was a major shock for the BJP since it lost and the Congress party is still in the government.

BJP loses its 3 States in 2018 

At the beginning of 2018, it looked as if the BJP will easily win Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in December ,2018. The 3 states had been the first States to have BJP governments nearly 30 years ago . In 2014, out of 65 MPs, the BJP won 62 MPs. Yet, as we saw the BJP lost all the 3 states. Admittedly, the Congress Party did not get a majority in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. But Congress formed a government in these 3 BJP-ruled states. There is no doubt that his is big setback to Narendra Modi and the BJP. Had BJP at least won one state out of these 3 ,it would have saved Modi’s prestige.

KCR’s big win in Telengana elections 

When KCR announced early state elections on September 2, 2018. People speculated that he might lose. In fact, the big meeting which was supposed to have 20 lakh people was a big flop. KCR went ahead and also announced that all sitting MLAs would get tickets. Suddenly, Chandra Babu Naidu and Congress announced the Maha Kutami alliance . Maha Kutami partners were jubilant that going by the 2014 election votes, Maha Kutami would easily win. So sure the Kutami was of victory, they fought for tickets . But the results on December 11, 2018 shocked everyone and made KCR a hero in India. The Congress party is shocked beyond words at KCR’s victory.

Chandra Babu Naidu faced sudden failure

When you gamble big, if you win, you win big. Chandra babu Naidu allied with the Congress in Telengana . The huge defeat was another shock for Chandra Babu Naidu. Naidu thought that the Maha Kutami will win and he will become a big national force. It was a great chance for Chandra Babu Naidu to show Andhra Pradesh that he is popular even in Telengana and therefore Andhra Pradesh smut vote for him in2 019. Chandra Babu Naidu also gambled that being allied will get him a big national role. Naidu was correct in all of these assumptions, if he had won. But the miserable failure of TDP in Telengana had made Naidu a big failure. Naidu never thought that he would face such a reverse. Naidu now has made his rivals in Andhra very happy.

Sabarimala Supreme Court decision 

The Supreme Court headed by the then CJI Dipak Misra on September 28 ,2018 had declared that the law banning entry of women of menstruating age in the Sabarimala temple was unconstitutional. This decision of the Supreme Court was very surprising and had stirred major agitations across the country. The Supreme Court never expected open rebellion against this decision on Sabarimala. The court thought that the issue was very small and people will obey it. The 5 Judge -bench of the Supreme court ,which decided the Sabarimala case had no South Indian on it. Obviously, the Supreme court gave this decision thinking that there would be praise all around. But the reaction has stunned the Court and the order has not been obeyed. This decision has also created anger amongst the Hindu community . Supreme court ahs lost a lot of prestige by its Sabarimala decision.

Naturally in the life of a large nation like India , there will be surprises everyday and we cannot even list all the major surprises. The fact is that 2018 has affected Narendra Modi and Chandra Babu Naidu very negatively. Both their careers are in danger now , due to their own mistakes and gambles.

One cannot really blame Naidu and Modi for the disasters they have brought on themselves . Again, I am not predicting that both Modi and Naidu will be defeated in 2019. But what is certain is that in 2018, Modi and Naidu faced severe failures and unless their luck is reversed , defeat in 2019 looks possible. Just a year ago, both Modi and Naidu looked un-defeatable. 2018 changed all that . Anything can happen in 2019.

Dr Pullarao is a noted economist and political commentator